SPRINGFIELD, Maine — A local man who firefighters thought might have perished in a weekend fire arrived Monday at his home as fire officials were sifting through the debris.
Firefighters feared that Grafton Burke, reportedly in his 50s, had died along with his dogs in the fire at 9 p.m. Sunday at the Mill Hill Road cabin he rented. An extensive search of the entire area was conducted Sunday night for Burke, whom locals call “The Dog Man” because he often was seen walking several dogs.
“As of this morning, we had not had any confirmation of whether he was or was not in the cabin, and at approximately 6:54 a.m. this morning he returned to the scene,” Springfield Fire Chief Joe Wood said Monday. He was unsure where Burke had been during the fire, but said Burke’s dogs were not as lucky. All six dogs of various breeds died in the blaze.
Burke told the Bangor Daily News that he had read about the fire in the paper Monday and recognized that it was his house.
Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday the cause or origin of the fire could not be determined because of the extent of damage to the building. He said the department’s investigation is complete.
The ranch-type cabin owned by Ken Clifford was in flames when firefighters arrived at the home off Mill Hill Road, Wood said. Burke had his own tower that supplied electricity for his home, but Wood was not sure whether the power was delivered by a generator or another system.
A few hurdles presented themselves when firefighters arrived at the scene, according to Wood. He said two vehicles with gasoline inside were parked in front of the cabin, making it dangerous for firefighters. In addition, “there was a 12-foot or higher stockade fence that ran the entire length around the property … so it made it very difficult to access portions of the property,” he said.
At Burke’s request Monday morning, firefighters buried his six dogs on the property.
BDN photographer Kate Collins contributed to this report.